Billionaire makes last-minute run to keep Kings in Sacramento
It’s a Hail Mary.
But if you’re going to call a Hail Mary, having a billionaire making the toss helps.
That’s what happened in the saga of the Kings potential move out of Sacramento on Thursday.
The Maloof brothers, the owners of the Kings, made their case for needing to pack up their franchise and move to Anaheim to the NBA Board of Governors — the other owners — at a meeting in New York. The vibe out of that meeting was basically cautious.
According to multiple reports, the Maloofs preached about how they swear they are not in as much debt as has been reported. Basically, they’re good, the market is the problem. Of course, that begs the question of why they needed a loan from Henry Samueli, the operator of the Honda Center? And why the terms of the lease are so bad? But okay.
The surprising news was that Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson (yes, the former Suns player Kevin Johnson) told that same board he had billionaire Ron Burkle ready to buy the team and keep them in Sacramento. Burkle is a grocery-store magnate and a big-time catch — a billionaire buddy of Bill Clinton who did big time fundraising for his wife. He runs in powerful circles. In an NBA where owners need to be richer and better connected, he is a whale (to use the gambling parlance). David Stern likes whales.
Burkle confirmed in a press release he wants in.
Problem is, the Maloofs continue to tell everyone they are not going to sell. They were emphasizing that again yesterday. Remember that George Maloof Sr. – the father of the Maloof brothers — bought the Rockets in 1979 and they sold it after he died a couple years later. They have said before they regretted that move, and that likely plays into them holding on to their asset.
So now what? Good luck guessing. It’s hard to picture the rich capitalist owners telling the Maloof brothers they cannot move to make more money. But Lakers owner Jerry Buss is trying to make the Kings pay a heavy relocation fee to move into what he sees as part of his market. If he (and Clippers owner Donald Sterling) succeeds, then the cost of the move might be too great and the deal would fall apart.
Then there’s the Burkle Hail Mary.
Maybe what matters most is Burkle saying he would be willing to buy a team and move it to Sacramento. Well, if a new stadium is built. It’s always about the stadium. But with a team for sale down in New Orleans where efforts to find local ownership are going slowly, it is something to watch. Do they have hornets in Sacramento?